Canada scores only 11th in literacy among OECD nations and about 20% of the population has very limited literacy skills which is directly linked to poverty. A new report says literacy should be a human right (Chris Young-CP)

Canadian non-profit agency says literacy should be a right

It seems shocking but in a developed country with a well-established education system, about a fifth of the population has serious problems with literacy, and almost half the population is below the international average standard for literacy.

That’s according to a new report by Frontier College, a national charitable literacy organization

Stephen Faul, is President and CEO of the agency.


The report  called “Literary and Essential Skills as a Poverty Reduction Strategy” also points out that those with low literacy skills will have limited employment opportunities and so are often relegated to low level jobs or no jobs. The report says low literacy is closely connected with poverty.

Stephen Faul, CEO- Frontier College

Faul says that generally those with low literacy skills earn up to 70 per cent less than those with good literacy skills.

On a literacy rating by the Organisation of Economic Development of its countries, Canada ranks 11th of the 35 countries listed.

Literacy Should Be A Human Right

The major point, and first recommendation in the report however is that it is time to consider literacy as a human right. Faul says “recognizing literacy as a policy priority and renewing our commitment to this priority to ensure we can unlock the potential of each and every Canadian.”

The 11 key findings in the report include for example, points such as:

  • There is a clear and well-established relationship between literacy skills and the experience of poverty.
  • Contextualizing program content to learners’ goals is most effective in facilitating transitions to employment or education.
  • Awareness and accessibility to programs is the most significant challenge for stakeholders.
  • Improving self-esteem, resilience, and self-confidence are key objectives and important indicators of success for literacy programmes.

There are also 11 recommendations first among them is that governments should recognize literacy as a human right and that it should be a central pillar within any comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. Also that there should be greater integration and collaboration among various service providers and that “any effort to increase literacy skills must be coupled with necessary supports and services that alleviate the burden of poverty and remove barriers to learning”.

Frontier College has been providing learning skills education since 1899 where it began teaching literacy in remote Canadian communities and work camps.

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